Evolve Your Brain: The Science of Changing Your Mind (Part 2)
The Science of Changing Your Mind: Part 2 of an Interview With Joe Dispenza, DC
Dr. Joseph Dispenza studied biochemistry at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. He went on to receive his Doctor of Chiropractic Degree at Life University in Atlanta, Georgia, graduating magna cum laude. He is the recipient of a Clinical Proficiency Citation for clinical excellence in doctor–patient relationships from Life University and a member of the International Chiropractic Honor Society.
Dr. Dispenza’s postgraduate training and continuing education has been in neurology, neurophysiology, and brain function. He has authored several scientific articles on the close relationship between brain chemistry, neurophysiology, and biology, and their roles in physical health. He has authored the book: Evolve Your Brain: the Science of Changing Your Mind. Dr. Dispenza was also one of the scientists, researchers, and teachers featured in the multi-award winning hit movie, “What the BLEEP Do We Know!?” ™ .
Joseph Dispenza is known by his ability to translate scientific concepts of physics and biology into every day comprehensible language.
Pathways: Can you explain the mind/body connection? What is the relationship between thoughts and the physical body?
Dr. Dispenza: An emerging scientific field called psychoneuroimmunology demonstrates the connection between the mind and the body, and has begun to help us understand the link between how we think and how we feel. We now know that every thought produces a biochemical reaction in the brain. The brain then releases chemical signals that are transmitted to the body, where they act as messengers of the thought. In this way, the thoughts that produce these chemicals in the brain allow our body to feel exactly the way we were just thinking.
Essentially, when we have happy, inspiring, or positive thoughts, our brain manufactures chemicals that make us feel joyful, inspired, or uplifted. For example, when we look forward to a pleasurable experience, the brain immediately makes a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine, which turns the brain and body on in anticipation of that experience, and we feel excited. If we have thoughts of hate, anger, or insecurity, the brain produces chemicals that the body responds to in a comparable way and we feel hateful, angry, or unworthy. Another chemical that our brain makes, called ACTH, signals the body to produce chemical secretions from the adrenal glands which make us feel threatened or aggressive.
When the body responds to a thought by having a feeling, the brain, which constantly monitors the status of the body, notices that the body is feeling a certain way. In response to that bodily feeling, the brain generates thoughts that produce corresponding chemical messengers, so that we begin to think the way we are feeling. Thinking creates feeling, and then feeling creates thinking, in a continuous biological feedback loop. This cycle eventually creates a particular state in the body—what we call a state of being—that determines the general nature of how we feel and behave.
For example, say a person lives much of her life in a repeating cycle of thoughts and feelings related to unworthiness. The moment she thinks about not being good enough or smart enough or enough of anything, her brain releases chemicals that produce a bodily feeling of unworthiness. Now she is feeling the way she was just thinking. Her brain notices that, and she begins to have thoughts of insecurity that match the way she was just feeling. Her body is now causing her to think. If her thoughts and feelings continue, year after year, to generate the same feedback loop between her brain and her body, she will exist in a state of being that is called “unworthy.” These repeated chemical signals cause the cells of the body to function in undesirable ways, making her sick.
This starts to explain how the mind can physically modify the body. In the book I talk about a man I called Tom, who developed one digestive ailment after another. This finally led him to examine his life, and he realized he had been suppressing feelings of anger and desperation over being in a job that made him miserable. Tom’s mind and body were in a feedback loop of thinking and feeling that amounted to toxic attitudes that his body just “couldn’t stomach.” He had been living in a state of being revolving around victimization. His healing finally began when he paid attention to his habitual thoughts and realized that his unconscious attitudes were the basis for the person he had become.
There is significant scientific evidence suggesting that the mind has a direct effect on the body…both for better and for worse. Research demonstrates that we can cause our bodies to be sick just by the anticipation of a future event or the memory of a past experience. In both cases, our thoughts create powerful chemicals of stress to alter most of the systems in our body. So what we think about, and the intensity of these thoughts, directly influences our health, the choices we make, and our quality of life.
Pathways: What then is the mind, and how is it related to the brain?
Dr. Dispenza: Now that we have the technology to observe a living brain, we know from functional brain scans that the mind is the brain in action. This is the latest definition of mind, according to neuroscience. When a brain is alive and active, it can process thought, learn new information, invent new ideas, master skills, recall memories, express feelings, refine movements, and maintain the orderly functioning of the body. The animated brain can also facilitate behavior, dream, perceive reality, and most important, embrace life. In order for the mind to exist, then, the brain must be alive.
The brain is therefore not the mind; it is the physical apparatus through which the mind is produced. The brain facilitates mind. We can think of the brain as an intricate data processing system that enables us to gather, process, store, recall, and communicate information within seconds, if need be, as well as to forecast, hypothesize, respond, behave, plan, and reason. The brain is also the control center through which the mind coordinates all of the metabolic functions necessary for life and survival. When your biocomputer is “turned on,” or alive, it functions by processing information, and thus produces the mind.
The brain has three individual anatomical structures with which it produces different aspects of mind. We also have a conscious mind and a subconscious mind, and both are the result of a brain that coordinates thought impulses through its various regions and substructures. Therefore, there are many diverse states of mind, because we can easily make the brain work in different ways.
Pathways: What is neuroplasticity?
Dr. Dispenza: Neuroplasticity is the natural ability to change how the brain’s neurons are connected and organized into circuits, which we call its synaptic wiring. Every time we learn something new or have a novel experience, the brain makes new synaptic connections to form new neural patterns or networks—and this happens at any age. When we utilize new circuits in new ways, we rewire the brain to fire in new sequences. From a neurological level, then, we are changed moment to moment by the thoughts we think, the information we learn, the events we experience, the reactions we have, the feelings we create, the memories we process, and even the dreams we embrace. All of these alter the way the brain works, producing new states of mind that are recorded in our brain.
Neuroplasticity is an innate, universal, genetic feature in humans. It affords us the privilege to learn from experiences in our environment, so that we may change our actions and modify our behavior, our thought processes, and our personality to produce outcomes that are more desirable. Merely to learn intellectual information is not enough; we must apply what we learn to create a different experience. If we could not rewire our brain to make new synaptic connections, we could not change in response to our experiences. Without the ability to change, we could not evolve, and we would be limited by our genetic predispositions. The neuroplasticity of our own brain depends on our ability to change our perception of the world around us, to change our mind, to change our self.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #16.
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